An early experience with death - a pet
   We always had cats on the place, but they were never in the house. Animals lived
outside - mom’s rule - no exceptions. One year a litter of kittens was born but was
undiscovered for too long, the kittens had become wild. I took the time to get one of them to
trust me and had a wonderful friend. I was in my early teens at the time.
   She was solid black with a little tiny patch of maybe five or six hairs on her chest that
were white. She would not let anyone near her until I coaxed her into eating out of my hand.
   Then she let me touch her and found that she liked to be petted. I was the only person
who could touch her. I have never before or since seen a cat express so much affection. I
called her 'Little one" in my mind but never really named her.
   Whenever I went outside she would come running, her tail straight up, meowing loudly.
She would stop right in front of me and wait for me to pick her up. If I did not do this soon
enough for her she would climb right up my pants leg until she got to my arms and I held
her. She quickly learned that she could just jump into my arms.
   She would start purring and ‘talking’ to me and not stop. She would rub her face all along
my jaw line and under my chin, she would climb up on my shoulder and walk back and forth
from one side to the other, she would play in my hair, she would stand on her hind legs on
my shoulders and put her front paws on top of my head to see where we were going. She
would stand on one shoulder, facing foreword and ride there where ever I walked. When
she was rubbing herself on my face she always had a paw on either side of my neck as if
she were hugging me.
   Her love and trust for me was complete. My parents marveled over this because no one
else could get near her. I really loved this cat, she is the first animal I ever loved without
reservation.
   When she was about eight months old she came to me like usual only she was very
distressed. She needed my help. I saw immediately that she was in real trouble. She was
having kittens. She was in the process of delivering a kitten breech. She laid down and I
comforted her for a moment then went back in the house and got my dad. I talked to her
and petted her while my dad carefully pulled the dead kitten's head out of her. Normally she
would not have tolerated him being near but she seemed to know that we were both helping
her. When it was out she got up and sniffed it and left. She meowed her thanks to me and
went back to the shed. She seemed to be okay.
   Two days later she greeted me in the yard but would not jump into my arms like she
usually did. Instead she meowed at me and trotted away, stopped to see if I was following,
meowed again and moved a little farther away and checked again. I followed her and she
led me to her kittens, allowing me to touch them. The next day when I went to check on her,
I found her and one of the kittens dead. The other I picked up and took to the house and
put it in a warm blanket/towel in a box. I defied mom’s rule of no animals in the house. I went
back out and disposed of the two bodies by placing them in the burn barrel so that they
would be left alone by predator birds and bugs. They were burned with the trash that night.
   The surviving kitten was weak and I tried to feed it and make sure it was warm but what I
did was not enough. I was trying to keep it alive because its mother had made sure I knew
about them because she knew she was dying and that I would take care of them. I felt like I
had failed her.
   I believed that this kitten was not going to live, so I put it out of its misery like I had been
taught. I carefully wrapped it in a hand towel and took it outside to the chopping block and
laid it on top. I picked up the ax closed my heart and eyes as I swung the ax and chopped
it's neck. I had been using an ax for several years already, so there was no mess and it was
quick. I picked up the body, towel and all, and without looking, placed it in the burn barrel. I
never told my parents any details about this only that it had died.
    I never cried over this loss of my friend or her kittens. I just bottled it up and corked it.
After all she was just an animal, and you don’t let yourself get attached to animals like that -
at least that was what my parents had taught me.
   The problem was that I was exceptionally attached to this cat, she was my best friend,
she loved me without reservation at a time when I was starved for someone to love me. Did
I mourn her loss, no. I stuffed it all inside me because if I mourned her loss I would have
gotten in trouble with my parents. This was the first of many times that I locked away my
emotions. From this time on I quit liking cats, which did not do any good. Cats know who
likes them and who does not - they could see through me. Cats, even standoffish ones,
would come to me expecting to be petted, to climb into my lap and get comfortable, etc. I
would push them away and still they could come back fully expecting me to caress or hold
them. It was frustrating because I did not want anything to do with them.
   I closed my heart when I killed that kitten because I could not bear the pain and guilt
associated with letting down my friend or their loss. I did not have someone to teach me to
mourn, I did not have a healthy environment in which to express my loss. This experience
set the stage for the rest of my loss experiences and how I dealt with my emotions in
general. Obviously it was not good.